President and Chief of Advertising Revenue of CBS-Viacom shares experience, insight with students

Julia Fabrizio, Features & Lifestyle Editor

Iona College welcomed President and Chief Advertising Revenue Officer at Viacom and CBSJo Ann Ross to campus as part of Iona’s celebration of 50 Years of Women on Oct. 30.

Ross shared her story of entering the advertising field and struggling as a professional woman. She also provided advice for college students looking to enter the field of communications after graduation.

As a young woman, Ross knew she wanted to work in an advertising agency, but began working in retail after she graduated college. When an opportunity presented itself to her, she got her first job in the field as a network sales assistant. She described jumping between jobs at ABC and CBS when she was offered a position with CBS running Olympic Sales in 1992; Ross says she “dove in with both feet.”

While she was happy to find her place at CBS, she acknowledges that there were struggles that came with it. Many of her CBS colleagues initially were not very welcoming because she was a woman and from a different network. She had to work hard to earn their respect.

Through her myriad of experiences in the communications field and dealing with gender bias, Ross learned many invaluable lessons. A major takeaway she took from working in a hostile work environment was to never pretend to be the smartest in the room, she would only comment when she had something useful to say.

Ross also acknowledges the major technological advancements that she has witnessed during her career. She says technology is changing everything every day and that people should not be afraid of it.

“We have to keep reinventing and innovating,” Ross said.

She notes that with the emergence of “FANG,” an acronym referencing the major tech companies Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, broadcasters need to continue putting out compelling content more than ever.

Ross advises college students to surround themselves with people who support them, are smarter than them and that will ultimately help and nurture them. She attributes her success to two strong female mentors: her mother and grandmother. She also learned a lot of valuable life lessons growing up with four brothers.

Ross says to find one’s passion and stick to it, and she thinks it is important to challenge the status quo and oneself to be more forward-thinking. She highlights that when interviewing for jobs and internships presentation is key, but not just in regards to one’s appearance; it is important to be able to articulate your goals and vision.

“Get your foot in the door wherever you can,” Ross said.

She suggests that Media & Strategic Communications majors take any opportunity presented to them in the communications field. A helpful tip she offers is to take one or two core business classes to broaden one’s skillset and stresses that mastering Excel is an asset for most jobs.

Students found Ross’s story and advice to be motivating and inspiring.

“The key takeaway that I took from Jo Ann’s talk is being confident, regardless of whether you’re entry-level or senior, just be confident in your abilities and your experiences, especially as a woman,” graduate student Samantha Ortiz said.

Senior Katherine Buholtz was surprised to hear that many professionals in the field started from nothing.

“I’m looking at jobs now as a senior and it’s really competitive and it’s nerve-wracking, so it’s really nice to know that not everyone had a plan so early out and that it’s normal to be in this position,” Buholtz said.

Over the years, Ross was promoted many times until she became the president of ad sales in 2002. She remained in that role for the past 17 years, but on Oct. 30, she was promoted again to president and chief advertising revenue officer.